Our Story

Our Mission

The mission of the Pathways Institute for Lifelong Learning is to foster with persons 55+ a quest for lifelong learning that enriches the mind and spirit to pursue wisdom, service and understanding.

Our Purpose

The Pathways Institute for Lifelong Learning® was established in 2005 to provide a forum for older adults to find meaningful use of their talents and abilities. Representatives from Messiah Village (now Messiah Lifeways), Messiah College, and the Brethren in Christ Church collaborated to found the Pathways Institute for Lifelong Learning.

Messiah Village took the lead in establishing and funding Pathways Institute (with a significant start-up grant provided by the Susquehanna Conference of the Brethren in Christ Church) with the purpose of providing residents from south central Pennsylvania

who are 55 years of age and older with opportunities to engage in mental,cultural, and spiritual activities promoting their overall wellness. The program was also intended to assist older adults in being good stewards of their own talents, time and treasures.

In 2008, Messiah Village was approached by several individuals who were interested in offering the Pathways Institute in Lancaster County through Landis Homes. In May 2008, Messiah Village began working with Landis Homes to offer Pathways Institute offerings in Lancaster. Pathways Institute programs offered in Lancaster County are sponsored by Landis Homes and administered through an agreement with Messiah Lifeways.

Our History

In pursuit of Lifelong Learning, the Institute focuses on three key components:

Personal Development Path
Promotes continued learning opportunities, personal enhancement, and spiritual growth
Service Path
Provides venues for seniors to share their knowledge, beliefs, and life experiences with others
Legacy/Sharing Path
Fosters generativity of older adults through opportunities to pass on wit and wisdom for future generations

 Pathways Institute’s Success Factors

  • Uniqueness of Pathways Institute Programming: High-quality courses and events presented on a wide variety of relevant topics including history and culture, politics and world affairs, literature, religion, science and environmental issues, music, fine arts and culture, wellness, and hobbies and general interests.
  • Courses and events are held in a variety of locations and venues including museums, cultural centers, historical societies, libraries, local colleges, and outdoors/environment.
  • Two terms are held each year, fall and spring, similar to a college schedule, which is very appealing to participants.
  • Diversity and volunteerism of high-quality instructors. Most instructors are retired, many from teaching at local colleges or from other fascinating and unique careers. Some also teach currently and still share generously of their time and expertise.
  • Focus on serving all adults age 55 + in South Central PA, not just retirement community residents.
  • Peer Learning. Students and instructors appreciate the opportunity to learn from one another. Many instructors enjoy learning from Pathways “students” as much as teaching.
  • A Program Director and two Coordinators whose schedules are devoted 100% to the program.
  • Ongoing commitment from Advisory Board consisting of individuals who conceived of the idea, as well as others from the larger community.
  • Participants appreciate and enjoy intergenerational interaction and opportunities to engage in services


Susan J. Stauffer, Pathways Institute Director

Susan Stauffer has a Master’s degree in Public Administration, a Master’s level Gerontology Certification, and a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology-Psychology. She has devoted nearly 35 years of her professional career to the field of aging services and administration. More than 20 of those years were spent working in Pennsylvania’s Area Agency on Aging network where she served as Deputy Director of a large agency in the south-central area of the State. Ms. Stauffer joined Messiah Village in 2005 at which time she developed and implemented the Pathways Institute for Lifelong Learning®. As Director, she oversees program development and operations of the Pathways Institute at all program sites.

Sharon Blouch, Pathways Institute Coordinator

Sharon Blouch earned her Microsoft Certification at Computer Learning Network and has since utilized the skills she learned to assist in a variety of office operations including data management, report generation, and project coordination. Sharon coordinates course registrations and handles daily operational details for the Harrisburg and Lancaster Pathways Institute sites.

Deborah J. Douthart, Pathways Institute Coordinator

Deborah Douthart is a retired educator and teacher in the areas of special education, gifted education and elementary education. She also has a Master’s degree in educational leadership as well as American and New England studies. Deborah coordinates daily operational details primarily at the Lancaster Pathways Institute site.